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For further information:

EASAC Secretariat

Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina

German National Academy of Sciences

Postfach 110543

06019 Halle (Saale)

Germany

tel +49 (0)345 4723 9831



fax +49 (0)345 4723 9839

email secretariat@easac.eu

Printed by Latimer Trend & Co Ltd, Plymouth, UK

EASAC policy report 13

December 2010

ISBN: 978-3-8047-2866-0

This report can be found at 

www.easac.eu

Realising European potential in synthetic biology: 

scientific opportunities and good governance

ea

sac



building science into EU policy


EASAC

EASAC – the European Academies Science Advisory Council – is formed by the national science academies of the 

EU Member States to enable them to collaborate with each other in giving advice to European policy-makers. It thus 

provides a means for the collective voice of European science to be heard.

Its mission reflects the view of academies that science is central to many aspects of modern life and that an appreciation 

of the scientific dimension is a pre-requisite to wise policy-making. This view already underpins the work of many 

academies at national level. With the growing importance of the European Union as an arena for policy, academies 

recognise that the scope of their advisory functions needs to extend beyond the national to cover also the European 

level. Here it is often the case that a trans-European grouping can be more effective than a body from a single country. 

The academies of Europe have therefore formed EASAC so that they can speak with a common voice with the goal of 

building science into policy at EU level.

Through EASAC, the academies work together to provide independent, expert, evidence-based advice about the 

scientific aspects of public policy to those who make or influence policy within the European institutions. Drawing on the 

memberships and networks of the academies, EASAC accesses the best of European science in carrying out its work. Its 

views are vigorously independent of commercial or political bias, and it is open and transparent in its processes. EASAC 

aims to deliver advice that is comprehensible, relevant and timely.

EASAC covers all scientific and technical disciplines, and its experts are drawn from all the countries of the European 

Union. It is funded by the member academies and by contracts with interested bodies. The expert members of 

EASAC's working groups give their time free of charge. EASAC has no commercial or business sponsors. 

EASAC’s activities include substantive studies of the scientific aspects of policy issues, reviews and advice about 

specific policy documents, workshops aimed at identifying current scientific thinking about major policy issues or at 

briefing policy-makers, and short, timely statements on topical subjects.

The EASAC Council has 25 individual members – highly experienced scientists nominated one each by the national 

science academies of every EU Member State that has one, by the Academia Europaea and by ALLEA. It is supported by 

a professional secretariat based at the Leopoldina, the German Academy of Sciences, in Halle (Saale). The Council agrees 

the initiation of projects, appoints members of working groups, reviews drafts and approves reports for publication.

To find out more about EASAC, visit the website – www.easac.eu – or contact the EASAC Secretariat at

secretariat@easac.eu

 



Realising European potential in synthetic biology: 

scientifi c opportunities and good governance

ea

sac




ii    | December 2010 | Realising European potential in synthetic biology 

EASAC


ISBN 978-3-8047-2866-0

© German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina 2010 

Apart from any fair dealing for the purposes of research or private study, or criticism or review, no part of this 

 publication may be reproduced, stored or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in 

writing of the publisher, or in accordance with the terms of licenses issued by the appropriate reproduction rights 

organisation. Enquiries concerning reproduction outside the terms stated here should be sent to:

EASAC Secretariat

Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina

German National Academy of Sciences

Postfach 110543

06019 Halle (Saale)

Germany


tel: +49 (0)345 4723 9831

fax: +49 (0)345 4723 9839

email: secretariat@easac.eu

web: www.easac.eu

Cover image: Engineered bacteria, conceptual computer artwork. Credit: Equinox Graphics / Science Photo Library.

Copy-edited and typeset in Frutiger by The Clyvedon Press Ltd, Cardiff, UK




EASAC 

Realising European potential in synthetic biology | December 2010 |    iii



Contents

page

Foreword 

v

Summary 

1



Introduction: scope and objectives of this EASAC report 

3

2 Defi nition and relationships with other scientifi c disciplines 

5



Envisaged societal applications 

7



Public expectations of synthetic biology research and applications 

9



Methodological approaches in synthetic biology 

11

5.1 Minimal 

genomes 

11

5.2 



Orthogonal biosystems: expanding the genetic code 

12

5.3 Regulatory 



circuits 

12

5.4 Metabolic 



engineering 

13

5.5 Protocells 



14

5.6 Bionanoscience 

14



Safety, social and governance issues 

17

6.1 


Identifying what is new 

17

6.2 Biosafety 



17

6.3 Biosecurity 

18

6.4 


Intellectual property rights 

20



Summary of issues and recommendations 

23

7.1 


Previous recommendations at Member State level 

23

7.2 



EASAC recommendations for the EU 

23

Appendix 1: 



Academy sources and Working Group composition 

29

Appendix 2: 

 International activities in synthetic biology: analysing ethical 

and societal implications 

30

List of abbreviations 

32

References 

33



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